Austin Energy Audits – How the ECAD Ordinance Benefits Home Buyers

Are you buying a home in Austin, Texas? Did you know that the seller is required to provide you an energy audit? This is a requirement of the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) ordinance, whose purpose is to make all Austin homes more energy efficient. The goal is to save enough energy that Austin does not have to build more power plants. The program is administered by the city owned utility, Austin Energy.An ECAD audit is performed by an Austin ECAD auditor who is registered with Austin Energy. The auditor analyzes energy use of the home using official forms provided by the City. The Austin ECAD auditor looks at a number of different areas of the home that effect energy use. He or she will analyze which windows should have solar screens on them as solar heat gain is major contributor to energy use in the summer. The ECAD auditor will measure the attic insulation and estimate its effective R value. The Austin Energy auditor will analyze and describe the duct system and the HVAC system as well as run a Duct Blaster test on each HVAC system. The Duct Blaster is a calibrated fan and manometer that will measure how much the ducts leak air, typically into the attic.With this and other information collected on the official ECAD form, home buyers have a snapshot of energy use of the home they are purchasing. However, ECAD audits are a subset of more comprehensive energy audits that all registered energy auditors are trained to perform. To qualify to perform ECAD audits, all energy auditors must either be certified through BPI or RESNET, the two energy auditor certification organizations.Currently, sellers are required to provide the ECAD audit by the time the real estate paper work is filed in the county’s offices as a result of closing. Austin Energy’s program managers realize that the current deadline comes too late for energy considerations to be part of the contract negotiations, so they’re seeking to change the administrative rules. They would like that the Austin energy ECAD audit be required by the end of the option period. Check with your energy auditor on the current rules.You the buyer benefits from this Austin energy audit. How? You’re getting information you probably wouldn’t otherwise know. Energy use is part of Total Cost of Ownership of any home. As energy prices rise, energy use becomes an important consideration. The Austin ECAD energy audit report gives you baseline knowledge of energy use.You may be able to use this knowledge in negotiations. If you’re looking at two similar houses, energy use may provide an edge of one over the other. Or, you can negotiate energy upgrades as part of the punch list of things you want the seller to fix prior to the sale. Many energy upgrades not only provide a financial benefit, but a comfort one as well. For example, adding cellulose insulation in walls not only lowers utility bills, but it also makes homes quieter. More insulation in the attic can make homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer as well as save money in utility bills. Duct sealing can provide more A/C to the living space instead of having conditioned air leak into the attic. The worse a house is in terms of energy efficiency, the quicker the payback on energy efficiency upgrades.As the buyer, you can suggest the Austin ECAD auditor the seller should use. You can find registered ECAD auditors on the Austin Energy website. Interview them and find the one that will do the best job for you. Ask about additional services like Blower Door testing, which tests air leakage through the building envelope; infrared thermography, which provides a visual record of many insulation failures (conditions permitting); air balancing, which tunes the HVAC system for maximum performance; etc. An Austin ECAD audit is a minimum energy audit. There’s more to learn about your future home in order to make it as energy efficient and comfortable as possible. The Austin ECAD energy audit is good place to start.